Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Welcoming foreign talent

The senior minister, at a community event where he presided as the constituency's MP over the weekend, urged Singaporeans to make immigrants feel welcome.

Well, I don't need to make them feel unwelcome -- because his government has already done that. I didn't really pay attention to the business side of the Budget report in Parliament in Februrary. I knew they revamped the scheme for issuing employment passes to foreign workers -- it's now more expensive for an employer to get a new Employment Pass or to renew an existing Employment Pass for a foreign worker, and also the quota of Singapore workers to foreign workers have changed -- all supposed to gear employers towards hiring local.

I didn't think it would concern me. I was dead wrong. Now, the restaurants in Little India are reportedly affected. Restaurateurs are having problems in the kitchen, which is usually helmed by a cook from India. This goes the same for zi char stalls and Chinese restaurants with a chef from China. No cook, no authentic food, no business. So they've got to hang on to the cook. But they can't hire more Singaporeans to renew the foreign cook's Employment Pass because there's only so much wait staff you need. And if it costs more to retain the cook's pass, of course the cost gets passed on to the customer.

This much I know from one of our reporters -- that at least one restaurant lost seven chefs in a span of two months when they were unable to renew their Employment Passes. The boss was told to switch those Employment Passes to S Passes. And S Pass-holders are capped at a ceiling of 25 per cent of a business’s total workforce.

And on a more personal note, my dance master, who is from India, is also now facing employment pass problems. He is hired to teach at a yoga school, and not unsurprisingly, a good half of the yoga teachers are from India. That probably means half of them will have to go. And wasn't welcoming foreign talent the mantra only yesterday?

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